Reviewing – ‘Life after Google’ by George Gilder

I found this book fascinating and very evocative – by integrating a myriad of narratives nestled in the technology space and research institutes, George Gilder offers crucial insights that are a must to mull over.


The realm of technology or the ‘cryptocosm’ – including Blockchain, bitcoin, and other derivatives may be initially challenging for the reader, but George is a surefooted guide ensuring that you don’t trip over technology that you don’t understand. He weaves in philosophy, economics, and heroic stories that enable you to map the cryptocosm. I personally and particularly liked some of the references to Markovian chains that have enabled deep learning and AI, Simulacrum that Google has built and which is perhaps contorting reality if not falling apart, Godel’s assault on determinism and how there is a world beyond rationality, and Karl Marx.


The book is a must read, a treasure trove, and let me pen down some of the acute insights it generated and reinforced for me:


  1. Dismantling the hegemony of Centralization & Control through Unbundling & Peer Networks


Gilder reminds us of the power of peer to peer networks that would always overwhelm and render inefficient the modern man’s need for control through intense centralization. He cites example and stories including huge google servers that are struggling economically and functionally against peer to peer networks that are more efficient, more agile, more creative, and more adaptive.


One sees the control paradigm and the need for centralization in almost every sphere of modernity. I see it in my area of organization design where need for excessive control through centralization leads to huge waste within the system, and enhanced vulnerability. Unbundling is one of the ways forward as evoked from Ronald Coase’s transaction cost theory.


George’s arguments against Google’s centralized ideology is worth reading through the book, and his faith in alternatives including new designs of blockchains and how these would transform the world are believable and the only way forward.


  1. Entrepreneurial mindset cannot be taught but can be nurtured and incubated


George critiques how ivy league education has become too expensive and yet not created enough number of keen thinkers and entrepreneurs. He challenges the norm of investing huge number of years and money into institutions that are unable to teach beyond what they have done in the last 40 years.


His stories on some of the new-age entrepreneurs and game-changers reveal how these planned to drop out of the education regime and through tight monetary constraints were able to offer new age thinking, products, and ideas. Gilder speaks of many an initiative to support such geniuses including the Thiel Fellowship that would identify 20 potential game changers under the age of 20 each year.


I think George has touched upon an important trend here – At GlobalGyan, very often my friend Srinivasa Addepalli bemoans the inability of the institution to create entrepreneurs, and how the firm is keen to be disruptive by offering skills and knowledge using the mobility platform. The moot question being – what does four years of engineering and two years of business school really prepare you for?


I am quite convinced that what we really need today are institutions that incubate and support the ones with crazy, romantic and rebellious notions of what the world ought to be as opposed to conformity and compliance.


  1. Consciousness does not come from Thought; Hence Life 3.0 or super AI cannot be conceived in the current paradigm


In one of the twenty odd chapters, Gilder critiques the work of Tegmark (Life 3.0) and Harari (Homo Deus) as well as this notion that AGI would lead to super Ai and singularity. His critique comes from the notion of consciousness and he challenges the reader by offering an American philosopher, Charles Pierce’s metaphor of the Interpretivist who brings in imagination and creativity to engage with symbols and objects.


This makes a lot of sense for a super intelligence machine that can analyse tonnes of data per second can at best be a closed sterile system, and would remain inhuman. Gilder questions the popular notion (and the romanticism) that the last generation of human beings would design super intelligence systems that would be anthropomorphic in nature; that IT would replace ‘wetware’ (the grey cells in human brain).


This blog, is at best, an introduction to this book. I am tempted to write more of what George wants to talk about including the laws of cryptocosm, the notion of time and value, and the stories around Blockchain / Bitcoin and how these would be transforming the world of economics.


Beyond Google can be a tough read at times but is a must read for those that are curious about how technology is shaping the world while an average man or woman is still unaware of these tectonic shifts.